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College adds international, human-rights scholar
College adds international, human-rights scholar
Laura A. Dickinson, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law whose work focuses on transitional justice, legal responses to terror, foreign affairs privatization, and the interrelationship between international and domestic law, will join the faculty of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in August. She will also become director of a new Center on international law and national security, to be jointly sponsored by the College of Law and the School for Global Studies.
“ASU is a university whose faculty are striving to solve some of the most serious problems facing the state, the nation and the world,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Laura A. Dickinson is a renowned scholar who is focused on international issues of great consequence, and we are fortunate that she has agreed to join our College of Law.”
Dickinson, a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, will be a Foundation Professor of Law and will teach human rights and courses related to international law and administrative law.
"Laura Dickinson is emerging as one of the real stars in international law and the College of Law is fortunate indeed to have her joining its faculty," said Dean Patricia White.
Her appointment enhances the College of Law’s already strong faculty in international law, human rights and national security, including Kenneth Abbott, who also is a professor of Global Studies; Aaron Xavier Fellmeth; Orde Kittrie; James Nickel, who also is an affiliated professor of philosophy; and Douglas Sylvester. All are Faculty Fellows in the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology.
Jeremy Paul, Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, said Dickinson is a popular teacher, a strong member of the law school community, and worked closely with scholars in other fields at the university to establish interdisciplinary connections.
"I have the highest respect for her," Paul said. "She's very giving of her time with students. Any faculty in America would be lucky to get Laura."
Dickinson said she became interested in human rights as a law student. "I had the opportunity to take a human-rights clinic," she said. "We sued the U.S. government on behalf of Haitian and Cuban migrants who were picked up on the high seas and brought to Guantanamo Bay. They were not getting any screening to see if they were refugees, and we challenged that in federal court."
Following that early experience, Dickinson worked on a variety of alien tort cases in which non-citizens could bring cases of torture or other serious human rights abuses in federal court against foreign dictators who came to the United States.
Dickinson, who is widely published and quoted, is the author of the upcoming book,
Outsourcing War and Peace,
to be published by Yale University Press. The book focuses on the increasing privatization of military functions, foreign aid and diplomacy, the ways in which such privatization affects human-rights law, and the variety of mechanisms that might be used to create greater accountability over private actors working abroad under government contracts.
"When we went to war in Iraq, I could see after the first year that we were using contractors to an unprecedented degree," Dickinson said. "I was interested in the human rights implications of that."
Dean Paul said Dickinson's work is notable because it avoids the polarized views on the issue.
"Laura's work steers a course between two extremes," Paul said. "She thinks it's unrealistic to believe public financing can fund all activity overseas and that contracting is here to stay. In that regard, she's breaking from liberal orthodoxy.
"On the other hand, she believes it is extremely important to police the activities of all the non-governmental agencies representing our country around the world. Her book, which proposes a series of accountability mechanisms that would start with the contract the agency signs, will be extremely important."
Dickinson served as a senior policy adviser to Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State. She also served as a law clerk to Justices Harry A. Blackmun and Stephen G. Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court and to Judge Dorothy Nelson on the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals.
At Connecticut, Dickinson taught International Human Rights, Property, Post-Conflict Justice, First Amendment Law, and Human Rights Practice. The Human Rights Practice course was a unique collaboration between the University of Connecticut Law School and the U.S. Regime Crimes Liaison Office in Baghdad, in which students did research and submitted legal memoranda to assist in the prosecution of persons before the Iraqi Special Tribunal, a specially constituted Iraqi court with jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, as well as several serious domestic Iraqi crimes, committed during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Dickinson also has been a visiting professor and research scholar in the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton University, where she worked on a policy initiative concerning contractor accountability.
She is on the executive council of The American Society of International Law and is active in the Law and Society Association.
In 2006, she worked with Sally Engle Merry, professor of Anthropology and Law and Society at New York University, to establish a collaborative research network to work on empirical approaches to human rights through the Law and Society Association.
"More and more people are bringing an empirical perspective to the human rights field, studying the complex ways in which global norms and local practice interact. We wanted to create a forum to bring these people together and expand the impact of this work," Dickinson said. "The close interaction between the College of Law and the School for Global Studies at ASU will allow me to continue this initiative and hopefully help to make ASU a national center for empirical work on human rights."